Subscribe for 17¢ / day
Associated Press Austrian explosives experts check the scene Friday where a U.S. World War II bomb exploded near the train station in Salzburg, Austria, killing two men sent to defuse it.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) — They don't tick, but they're still time bombs capable of wreaking death and devastation.

Nearly six decades after the end of World War II, much of Europe remains studded with unexploded ordnance like the U.S. bomb that went off near Salzburg's train station last week, killing two men sent to defuse it.

Experts say it will take decades more to rid the continent of the war's enduring legacy: Nazi and Allied bombs, mines, missiles, grenades and other explosives.

"There are thousands upon thousands of unexploded bombs throughout Europe," said Colin King, a munitions expert with London-based Jane's Information Group, which analyzes defense and military issues.

Old bombs are turning up in surprising places:

n Last month, organizers preparing for a visit to Bosnia by Pope John Paul II unearthed six aerial bombs and a mortar grenade from beneath a platform where the pontiff was to address tens of thousands of pilgrims at a monastery.

n In November, Greek army experts removed a 250-pound World War II bomb at Athens' former international airport, which will become a sports venue for the 2004 Olympics. Work crews found it eight feet underground near a former runway.

n That same month, authorities sealed off streets and evacuated 400 people from their homes before detonating a bomb from World War II found on a building site near the center of Glasgow, Scotland's largest city.

It's not unusual for farmers working their fields in Belgium and France to hit a dud, sometimes with fatal results, or for beachcombers in Normandy to find bombs or shells — some dating to World War I — buried in the sand.

Last spring, 9,000 people were evacuated from their homes in the northern French city of Lens so experts could defuse a 660-pound British bomb discovered during construction work near a soccer stadium.

In April, Russian workers defused a bomb that had been attached to a busy railway bridge near the city of Bryansk since World War II — and also discovered wartime mines on the territory of a nuclear power plant.

Salzburg, the quaint cobblestoned birthplace of Mozart, is strewn with at least 122 other bombs that could pack a punch similar to the 550-pound U.S. aircraft bomb that accidentally detonated Thursday, said Wilfried Althuber, the city's environment chief.

Salzburg's railway lines and train station were major targets of Allied bombing during the war, and many bombs from that period remain in the area.

Nationwide, experts say, the Allies dropped more than 120,000 tons of bombs, mines and incendiary devices across Austria, which Hitler had annexed in 1938. Up to 30 percent of those explosives never went off.

In World War II, "bombs penetrated diagonally and deeply into the soil," where they are slow to rust and break down, Althuber said.

In July 1996, one such bomb exploded in a park near a kindergarten, gouging a crater from the ground. No one was injured.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Werner Csidek, in charge of war-era munitions for Austria's national railway, told the Austria Press Agency that experts still must conduct a thorough search of Salzburg.

He said U.S. aerial photographs taken after 1944-45 bombardments could help pinpoint the location of unexploded bombs.

The bombs are tricky to defuse because years of exposure to groundwater and frost have made them chemically unstable, Gerhard Proksch, who heads the Austrian Interior Ministry's bomb disposal unit, told Austrian state radio.

Europe isn't the only part of the world still dealing with such bombs.

In June, explosives experts in Singapore uncovered a cache of 843 unexploded bombs at a construction site near a former British military base. The bombs, still in a stable condition, were cleared out and destroyed in controlled explosions.

Nearly 200 bombs and artillery shells dumped offshore by the British military decades ago were removed last year from the site of a Disney theme park being built in Hong Kong. Most posed no danger because they had no fuses.

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.